Zoe Denton is an English sophomore and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

As a person greatly interested in San Luis Obispo’s growing film community and in social justice, I found myself at San Luis Obispo’s first Social Justice Film Series, and you should have been there too. 

Honestly, when I saw the movies being featured, Black Panther and The Farewell, I was a little disappointed. Those choices seemed obvious to me and as though there wasn’t a lot of thought put into them; hasn’t everybody already seen these films? 

I was quickly humbled by my lack of knowledge of what these two films truly did for their respective communities.

From the moment Ayana Jamieson, the host for the showing of Black Panther, stepped on the stage and began talking about Afrofuturism, I realized I had never thought in depth about the many complex aspects of Black Panther that made the film as influential as it is. Aside from the obviously norm-defying all-Black cast, the movie includes complexities driven by multifaceted representations of Black characters each with fully developed, unique motives.

I heard some great questions, such as aspiring filmmakers asking how to tell stories about people of a variety of backgrounds truthfully. They were met with equally thoughtful responses about the importance of connecting with real people who have gone through similar experiences as the ones filmmakers want to portray, while also acknowledging that not everybody is meant to tell every story. 

The lack of diversity and inclusion on this campus is an issue that negatively affects everyone, especially those who hold marginalized identities. This Social Justice Film Festival was an opportunity to widen people’s perspectives through entertaining and thoroughly interesting media. I wish more people had taken advantage of this, because while the panelists were incredibly educated and enlightening, not enough people were able to hear their messages. 

As a community of students, specifically White students attending a predominantly White institution, we need to do a better job of showing up and being there to learn and listen when Black, Indigenous and People of Color create spaces where we can receive free education.

As easy as it is (and also very justifiable) to blame the administration for Cal Poly’s less than inclusive reputation, students need to support events such as these to make this effort worthwhile. 

I hope this festival happens again next year, and I hope it grows so that more people can learn about social justice in a whole new light.